Grant’s Desi Achiever
A serial entrepreneur at 24
By SHAGORIKA EASWAR
Parth Patel describes himself as a serial entrepreneur and well he might, seeing as how he launched his first business when he was barely 20.
“That failed, but I learnt a lot in the process,” says Patel, CEO of SyS Creations – IT Management and Consulting Solutions which focuses on technology-driven solutions. He recently founded another venture, YoloCarts, which aspires to make hiring a pre-vetted service provider as easy as e-commerce.
“We are building a platform which can organize the world of services and bring them to your fingertips,” says Patel, who also serves as COO in Writi Inc. which creates advanced and intuitive technology solutions that enable healthcare providers to focus on more important things: their business and productivity.
He has worked with small independents, national corporations and privately owned Canadian companies. “I am a firm believer of leveraging technology to create a set of simple yet powerful processes to make anything happen.”
All this, and he’s just 24.
Back in 2011, Patel decided that the engineering course he was enrolled in in Ahmedabad after completing grade 12 was not adding to his practical knowledge.
“It was at a prestigious college, but I felt I was not learning how to apply what I was learning there to real-life situations.”
His parents, Jitendra and Geeta Patel, were not too keen to let their only child head off to an unknown country but he persuaded them, gained admission in the electrical engineering program at Senecca College and landed in Canada as an international student the same year.
He found a place to live in Etobicoke and immersed himself in the Canadian experience. It wasn’t easy.
“Most of my classmates were in their early to mid-20s and there was a mindset gap,” he says. “But it was all good, because I learnt so much from interacting with them. The weather in winter was another challenge, but I got used to it soon enough!”
After graduating, he went to India for six months and on his return, found himself a job at a tech firm. However, in less than two months he quit because he felt “like a robot” doing repetitive tasks.
Changing tracks, he signed up for tech courses such as CISCO and Microsoft certification, completing the first in 13 days – most others take three to four months, he says – and scoring 1000 out of 1000.
Instead of accepting a higher-paying job at a large firm in Toronto, he chose to work at a smaller organization in Hamilton at a lower pay grade as the opportunity to learn and grow was more there. While there, he helped push the revenue up substantially and realized that he found entrepreneurship exciting.
His father said he was too young, that he knew nothing of the business environment in the IT industry. Patel’s response was that business knowledge doesn’t necessarily come with age. That he would either fail spectacularly or earn millions, but that he had to try to see which way things would go.
“My dad understood, because that’s his philosophy – that one truly appreciates success after failing a few times. He says you don’t gain anything if you lose nothing. He’s funny that way. Parents jump in to rescue their kids, but he allows me to find my own path, he supports me in failing! Jokes apart, I knew, of course, that if I failed, they were there for me, but I took no monetary help from my parents.”
Patel launched SyS Creations with the $40,000 that constituted his entire worldly wealth at the time. Today, the man who started with a staff of one has over a 100 people working for him and an annual turnover of over $2 million and multinational clients in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Dubai, etc.
There are so many tech start-ups and not all of them succeed. Patel says what sets his apart is that they treat their personnel as their greatest asset.
“What happens in many organizations is that when a staff member comes up with an idea, the management puts their R&D to work to test and possibly develop it. It can take months to approve and action. In our companies, we say put your ideas on the table and you will have a yes or a no response within a week. And when it’s a viable idea, wherever possible, we make our staff partners in the new venture. With such an incentive to come up with new ideas, our staff have come up with several groundbreaking new ones.”
His team at Writi has developed a digital pen that digitizes notes onto screens in real time, and has been adopted by the long-term care industry in a big way.
“The pen is an IOT (Internet of Things) device and we’re looking to launch it in other industries as well,” says Patel. “It can be a very useful tool for education and governmental departments, for instance. Journalists won’t have to transcribe their notes! Contractors building homes in remote areas can fill out forms and transfer them to government agencies.”
And these are only a part of all the possible benefits he envisages from the pen. The pen is available in Korea and some other parts of the world but theirs offers certain features unique to their pen, he says.
Patel didn’t go to any business school to learn how to launch or run a business.
“I’m Gujarati!” he says with a laugh, crediting his business-minded community for his business acumen. And he credits his father for inculcating his business philosophy in him at a young age.
“My father has a construction business and wanted me to join him and though I told him I wanted to build my own, I used to accompany him on his rounds and gained knowledge by observing him. He taught me never to play with work ethics. He taught me that when you have a vision, the universe helps you achieve it.”
And yet, when he started out, the universe didn’t appear to be doing much in that direction, he says, recalling the initial challenges.
“I couldn’t even get anyone to agree to a meeting, let alone give me business! When I did get to meet the decision makers, they’d take one look at me and decide I was too young, too inexperienced. They were skeptical.”
After a couple of months Patel changed tracks. He started applying for jobs at small and medium-sized companies and turning those interviews into business opportunities. He would tell them they didn’t really need a full-time tech support guy, that a company like his, offering part-time support would do the job of keeping their systems running smoothly.
“I showed them the benefits – and it worked. I saved them money and I got clients. I got my first three clients this way! ”
Though he is enjoying the success, he is in the business not just for monetary gain, says Patel.
“I want to do some good in the world. The way I function, I tell my staff that if I make a mistake, I will make amends by helping someone who is in need, I will donate money to a good cause. I see this as a highly efficient way of self-improvement. This way I am more careful, I think twice before rushing into decisions and when I do make a mistake, it helps someone somewhere.”
Patel recently got married to Shreya, whose field is chemistry. “Wise people advised me not to marry someone from the same field – in those marriages, couples only talk about work even at home. In our case, when she talks about chemistry, I say, ‘Okay, whatever!’ and her reaction to my business talk is pretty much the same. We don’t know about each other’s fields, and so we listen to each other!”
He educates himself, gathering more information about his field in his free time. “I read tons, follow case studies, do my own research. I believe that after equipping one with the basics, courses only give you outdated info, and this is particularly true in my field. There’s a generational information change in very a short span of time.”
Patel’s advice for other young would-be entrepreneurs sounds almost like what his father said to him: If you work hard in the right manner, you will see success; it’s how you deal with failure that sets you apart from the crowd.
He tells them to value time. “You know what they say about the dash that separates the dates of birth and of passing on tombstones being representative of the life you have lived? Don’t put off things saying you will do them tomorrow. Use your time wisely. Ask yourself how you can impact people, touch lives. And choose your surrounding wisely. Don’t surround yourself with people who only say nice things to you, who agree with every word. If you surround yourself with nine losers, soon you will be the tenth loser.
“Ask questions, lots of questions. Ask if there is logic to the way things are being presented or done. I truly believe in this. Some of this sounds trite, all of this has been said by someone before, but most people don’t take these words seriously. I do.”
He says he finds working with his team very rewarding, learning together from each mistake. Future plans include creating solutions for different industries.
“I want to make systems that make human lives better, more efficient.”
Demos of the digital pen are available at writi.ca.
• Grant’s is proud to present this series about people who are making a difference in the community. Represented by PMA Canada (www.pmacanada.com).